In the beginning, the puppy will be training you to anticipate his need to eliminate. Immediately after feeding your puppy, take him outside to potty. Try not to distract the puppy from the business at hand. Stand by quietly until he has finished, then praise him to the skies for a job well done. Bring him inside for some quality play time.
Puppies urinate frequently. I timed one of my puppies once, eleven minutes between puddles. You will have to be vigilant at first until he gets the idea that this potty business is meant to be done outside. There will be times when you are distracted and puppy makes a puddle. He is just a baby, do not expect perfection. There WILL be a few puddles, it is not the end of the world. Clean the puddle and take him outside to remind him where you want him to go.
One of the best tools for housetraining (and for saving your sanity and carpets), is the crate. Crates are not inhumane. It will be your puppy's oasis, his own portable den. After puppy has been fed, pottied, and played with; place him in his crate for some quiet time. Puppies nap a lot when very young. Puppy will not wish to soil his own den. If, however, puppy is left in his crate for too long a period, he will have no other choice but to mess his bed. It is up to you to release him at regular, humane intervals. When puppy wakes from his nap, take him out for another potty session, and once again praise him when he performs.
Puppy does not need free access to the entire house. Restrict his activities to one room, preferably one with a tile floor. Puppy proof the room, anything left on the floor is fair game. Puppy is anxious to please you, soon he will figure out that outdoors is where you want him to eliminate and he will begin to ask you to let him out. He might sit quietly by the door and if you do not notice him, he may make a puddle. He may be playing too hard to notice he has to go until it is too late. Puppies do not have good bowel and bladder control until about 5 1/2 months of age. Give him credit for trying. Do not rub your puppy's nose in his mess or whack him with a newspaper. This is a normal body function, you can't expect him to hold it forever. There are dogs so afraid of making a mistake that they become seriously constipated. If you find a mess, simply say, "No, no. Bad potty." Take him outside and praise him when he gets it right. Some trainers recommend that you not clean up your puppy's mess while he is watching.
I am not going to kid you, raising a puppy is a lot of work. But, a job worth doing, is worth doing well. If you are vigilant and consistent, your puppy will potty train quickly and reliably.
Playing With Your Puppy
Play is your puppy's way of learning about his environment and where he fits in. A puppy's play with his siblings teaches him his role in the pack hierarchy. Your puppy's breeder should be able to tell you if he showed dominant or submissive tendencies. Many breeders temperment test their litters to determine each puppy's response to stimuli.
I have already discussed chewing or nipping behavior. If your puppy insists on mouthing or chewing on your hand, tell him "No, bad teeth" and give him a toy to chew instead. Be consistent with this, do not allow the puppy to chew on any other family member, particularly your children. It may be cute now, but it most definitely will not be cute when he gets bigger and stronger.
Tug of war is a favorite game. A few words of caution about this game. If your puppy is showing dominant traits, this game could encourage that behavior. It is easy for this game to tip over the edge and become an out and out battle of wills. Never let him win. If you have a submissive, timid puppy this game is a great way to build confidence. You may have difficulty encouraging him to grab hold at first, any small show of confidence should be praised. It is okay to let the submissive puppy win a little. Again, do not let things get out of hand. Stop while you are still in control.
I have already mentioned some suitable toys for chewing. Squeak toys are great fun (though a bit noisy), be careful of cheaply made toys as puppies have been known to chew out the squeaker and choke. My puppies love stuffed toys. Remove eyes and noses as these are the first things puppy will try to chew. I am not sure if they are attracted to faces or if they are just aware of a different texture. Tennis balls are good fun, run them through the wash a few times to dilute the dye. Keep a toy box with a nice selection of toys handy for your puppy. He will probably empty it out several times a day. Rotate his toys to keep the selection interesting.
Training Your Puppy
It is important that you and your puppy get started off on the right foot (paw). You already have an advantage over those people who begin obedience training AFTER their dogs have developed a less than desirable problem. You will be consciously molding your puppy's behavior right from the beginning. It is much easier to begin the way you mean to go on, than it is to retrain an unacceptable behavior your dog has already learned very thoroughly.
It is impossible NOT to train your dog. Your response to your dogs's behavior on a daily basis is going to produce results and sometimes these are not the results you intended. Many of the unwelcome behaviors a dog exhibits are the direct result of unconscious training on the owner's part.
Dogs that are raised in a home environment with daily interaction with people will learn more quickly than dogs that spend the majority of their time isolated in a dog run or attached to a chain. Dogs are pack animals, they are social animals. They are not robots, neither are they furry people. Rather than expecting your dog to think or react as a little human, try to think as though you were a dog.
Dog language is made up of body postures, tone of voice and smells. A dog is going to react to what your body is telling him rather than the specific words you speak. A command given in a hesitant, questioning voice will not produce the desired results. Plan on training with a confident, expectant attitude. I have heard trainers say, " I don't think my dog will do this or that", and sure enough the dog does not perform. How much of this is a self-fulfilled prophesy?
Good temperment is an important factor. It is difficult to determine how much of temperament is inherited and how much is the result of the puppy's environment. When choosing a puppy, watch how his dam (mother) reacts to situations. Not only has she contributed half of his genes, but she has molded his behavior for the first important weeks of his life. It is also important that the puppy's breeder has handled and interacted with the puppy from the beginning. You will find that puppies raised in the home and enjoying daily interaction with people will do better than a litter raised in the barn or kennel. Once you bring your puppy home it is up to you to socialize him. You will not be doing your puppy a favor by keeping him home and protecting him from new situations. You will be teaching him that there is something fearful out there. It is important, however, that you only take him into controlled situations so that he does not have a bad experience.
Remember that God made puppies cute so that we can forgive them for all the naughty things they will do. Now relax and enjoy your puppy. This is going to be fun!
Early Training Exercises
These exercises are meant to establish a good working relationship with you and your puppy. Do not expect perfection at this young age. Right now all you want from your puppy his willingness to allow you to be the dominant partner in the training regimen. If you do not establish this at an early age, it will be much more difficult for him to submit when he is older, bigger and more assertive. Puppy will have already acquired the habit of obedience before it occurs to him to challenge you. Better to insure a bloodless victory than wait until he has reached his teenage months of rebellion. Early training patterns will pave the way for serious training later. The primary goal is not to just have puppy learn to sit, down and stand on command; rather it is to encourage the puppy to respond to your commands with eagerness and enjoyment, not resistance. This means you praise him when he does it right. I made the mistake most first time trainers do, I turned our training sessions into canine boot camp. I was barking orders and correcting my puppy every time he did something wrong or even slightly less than perfect. I did not inform him when he got it right. Therefore he would often get it wrong. I would have saved myself a lot of aggravation and a lot of boredom if I had emphasized the positive rather than focusing on the negative. Fifteen minutes of training a day will give you results. Break your formal training with short periods of playtime. If your puppy just is not getting it, go back to something he does well and end on a positive note.
The earliest exercise to start with is simply placing your puppy in the sit position as you give him the sit command. Keep your hands on the puppy to help him hold the position for a few seconds, then praise him lavishly, emphasizing the sit word. "What a good SIT!". Keep your voice happy, light and joyful when you praise. Then place the puppy in the down position as you give the command to down. Make your voice deeper and more authorities when giving a command. Puppy may struggle more in the down position, hold him in position until he relaxes in your hands, then praise him for his wonderful down. Next, place your hand just under his thigh to help him stand. Place his feet four square under him and hold him in position as you tell him to stand. Then praise, praise, praise! Repeat these exercises five times each. Very soon your puppy will anticipate your commands and will sit or down without you having to place him in position. This is a big step forward and deserves extra praise.
Try to find a puppy kindergarten class, classes are often offered by community adult education. Ask to monitor the class, see if you like the trainer's methods. Puppy's shots will have to be up to date before you take him out to a public place and most trainers will require proof of vaccination. Socialization is imperative, puppy needs to learn that the world is a good and safe place. Ask your vet if you can bring your puppy in for a social visit. Bring a pocket full of treats and have everyone make a fuss over your puppy. There are pet supply stores that welcome pets, here is another opportunity to give your puppy a positive experience. Little league games, soccer and auctions are also great places to socialize a puppy.
Leash training can either be a gradual, relaxed learning process or an out and out tug of war. You can start this exercise quite young, by first allowing the puppy to become accustomed to a lightweight collar around his neck for slowly lengthening intervals. Next tie a string or lightweight puppy lead to the collar and allow it to drag. Puppy will be quite surprised at first and may try to gnaw the leash, do not allow him to do this. Distract him with a toy or treat. After he has become used to the leash dragging, pick up the leash and follow him around the room. Move on to gently guiding the puppy in your direction, using voice and treats. If puppy suddenly balks, stand still and give the puppy a little slack. Let him correct himself when he pulls against the leash. There is a fine line between the puppy correcting himself and you actively jerking him about. Puppy soon learns that if he sticks with you the leash does not tighten. Use your voice to praise and encourage him when he is moving nicely on lead. If you have an older leash trained dog, walk them together. Puppy will naturally want to follow the older dog and will put up less of a fuss. If you have started the early training exercises he will already be in the habit of following your lead. Soon he will be following you about like a...puppy!
What To Do If Your Puppy Gets Away From You
Your new puppy must never be allowed to exercise in an unsecured area without some means of restraint. A puppy is a complete innocent when faced with the hazards of his immediate environment; it is your responsibility to protect him. All it takes is one moment of inattention or complacency to cause a tragedy. I unfortunately can speak from personal experience. If (heaven forbid) your puppy should slip away from you, DO NOT run after him in a panic. You will either frighten him into bolting or convince him that this is some new, intriguing game of keep away. Instead squat down (to present a less threatening posture), open your arms wide and call to him in a bright, coaxing and confident manner. It is a good idea to always carry a pocket full of treats to reward your puppy for coming to you. My puppies learn the "cookie" word as early as four weeks, in fact, they will often respond more enthusiastically to "cookie" than their own names. If the puppy does not come in spite of your blandishments, try backing away or turn and run from the puppy. He may interpret this as an invitation to play and chase after you. NEVER scold a puppy once he has come to you, he will associate the act of coming to you with punishment. It would be more appropriate to scold yourself for allowing a dangerous situation to develop. ALWAYS praise the puppy for coming to you, it should be your goal to see him perform this behavior consistently and joyfully. Therefore, do not call the puppy to you for the purpose of performing some obnoxious task, such as toe nail trimming or confining him to his crate without a little loving or play time first. Do not attempt to formally teach the "come" word without having some means of controlling your puppy's actions, you must reel him in as you call him. He must not get the idea he can choose to come or not come. There is a wonderful retractable leash that allows your dog a little more freedom while allowing you to still maintain control.
Dogs use their voices to express joy, challenge and frustration. Listen to your dog, he may have a legitimate reason to bark. He may be warning you of an intruder, human or animal. Acknowledge your dog's vigilance, then let him know that you will take it from here. He may be trying to tell you that he is in trouble and needs your help, or he may be telling the world he is bored and has nothing better to do. Part of responsible dog ownership includes consideration of your neighbors' peace of mind.
Teaching your dog to speak on command can help you regulate his uncontrolled barking. Once he understands the concept of "speak", "no speak" will be more easily understood. For the dog that continues to bark after being commanded to stop, grasp his muzzle lightly and repeat, "no speak". If he continues, chuck him under the chin and repeat "no speak". If he continues, fill a spray bottle with water and give him a squirt in the face along with the verbal command. Some dogs learn to curb their barking the minute you reach for the spray bottle. A pop can filled with beans or coins and taped shut can be tossed at his feet along with the command. The noise startles the dog and interrupts his barking behavior, praise him for his silence. Stopping the behavior is only half the battle; TELL the dog when he is right!
If your dog is kept tied out all day with nothing to occupy his mind, he may be barking from boredom and frustration. Dogs are social animals; they prefer to interact with the other members of their pack (your family). Try to come up with a different solution for restraining your dog when you are away from home so that he does not become a barking nuisance to the neighborhood. Allowing him to run loose is NOT a solution. Crate your dog indoors if the period of time that you are gone is not too long for your dog's bladder. Another option is to hire a neighborhood teen to exercise your dog for you in your absence. My circumstances (working twelve hour shifts) required another solution other than crating during my absence. My dogs have access to the kitchen and bathroom with a dog door leading to a large fenced yard. They can come and go freely, an ideal solution.
One of the biggest problems people have with their puppies is indiscriminate chewing. It is annoying to find your best shoes (and it is ALWAYS your best shoes) chewed beyond recognition. What you have got to understand is that the puppy is not being malicious. Puppies have GOT to chew. Just like the babies they are, they are teething.
Provide the puppy with his own (legal) chews, and keep anything you do not want chewed picked up and out of the way. Electrical cords are a major hazard not only to your puppy's health, but also as a fire risk. Limit the puppy's access to a room until it has been puppy proofed. Puppies do not need or deserve free run of the house. I would recommend a crate for your puppy's protection when you leave the house or he is unsupervised. Those of you who do not see the need to puppy proof have unrealistic expectations, and are bound to be disappointed when something you treasure is destroyed. Yes, puppy can be taught that something is a "No, no", but until he has learned that lesson a few of your possessions will feel his teeth.
I would not recommend giving the puppy an old, cast off shoe. The puppy will not be able to discriminate between his shoe and your best shoe. Rawhide chews, Nyla bones, large bones (you can buy sterilized bones at pet supply stores), tennis balls, and braided rags are safe alternatives. Make sure he does not whittle his chews down to a small enough size that he could choke on them or swallow them and create a bowel blockage.
If your puppy starts chewing something he should not, remove the item, tell him "no, bad chew or bad teeth", and give him one of his own chews. Then praise him for chewing the correct item. It is not enough to tell him when he is wrong, finish the job and tell him when he has got it right! Do not allow your puppy to chew on your hands or nip at your heels. This is a different behavior than teething. This is how he would play with his siblings to determine his place in the pack hierarchy. You are the pack leader, do not let him get the idea he can challenge you for the position.
His need to chew will taper off as he gets his second set of teeth well set in, but older dogs will still chew because they enjoy it. Set the ground rules early and everyone will be happy.
Jumping on People
Dogs that jump on people have a nuisance value that ranges from mere annoyance to very real danger. Small dogs can shred your panty hose or plant muddy paw prints all over your Sunday church clothes. Large dogs can put you in the hospital. Think what could happen if your dog were to knock over an elderly person with brittle bones. Your dog is not doing this with any malicious intent, it is usually an over exuberant expression of his affection for you. Jumping on people is an attention getting behavior on the part of the dog.
Do not reward your dog for his bad behavior by giving him what he wants. Do not pet or praise your dog until all four of his feet are firmly planted on the ground. If your dog is jumping on you, turn your body slightly so he rebounds off you and tell him "No jump!" Or catch his forelegs and hold him away from you, then drop his front end to the floor with the command to "No jump!" You may have to do this several times before your dog realizes that you do not share his enthusiasm. If your dog persists in jumping, you may (with caution) raise your knee as he leaps, accompanied by a firm "No jump!" Use this correction with care as you could injure your dog. Escalate the force of your correction only as needed to produce the desired result.
Now praise your dog and pet him for as long as his feet remain on the floor. If your dog starts crawling up your body as you praise him, stop the praise and push him off with a "No jump!" Praise him again as soon as his feet return to the floor. Timing is important, remember you have to tell him when he is doing it right. Use a quiet, calm voice when praising the excitable dog. The high pitched, praising voice you would normally use for reinforcing good behavior may wind him up into repeating his unwelcome behavior. Try not to set your dog up for failure. Praise is so important. If your dog does not receive the attention he is craving, he will court any response from you, even a reprimand.
What if your dog jumps on others? Ask one of your friends to approach your dog when he is leashed and under your control. Leave some slack in the leash. If your dog leaps to jump on your friend he will correct himself when he reaches the end of the slack lead. Your friend may then reapproach the dog, if he leaps again, he will correct himself. You should accompany his attempts to leap with the command to "No jump!" Tell him he is a good boy when his feet remain on the floor and allow your friend to complete his approach and praise your dog. Use one word or phrase when correcting your dog, either "off" or "no jump". Do not use "down", this command should only be used when you want your dog in the lying down position.
A word about leash corrections. Do not string your dog up on a taut leash. Some dogs learn to pull against a tight lead, gasping and choking every inch of the way. In order for the dog to learn that his behavior has consequences, leave the leash loose and he will correct himself when he reaches the end of the slack. Once he connects his behavior (jumping) with the correction (the leash tightening), you will see him change his behavior to avoid the correction. He will also learn to connect his good behavior (not jumping) with his reward (your praise).
If your dog gets excited around strangers, teach him to shake hands, this puts brakes on his behavior as he has to think about sitting and presenting a paw. This is also a good tool for training a timid dog to be approached by strangers.
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